Law Talk

Home Renovations and Consumer Protection Laws in Ontario

January 2011

Are you planning a major home renovation? Is your home in need of simple repairs? Before you embark on your next project, there are some things you need to know to protect your home and your wallet.

Consumer beware

General contractors do not need a licence to do home renovations in Canada. To find out if a contractor is reliable, Better Business Bureaus, Chambers of Commerce, local licensing commissions and municipal building inspectors, as well as the Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services "Consumer Beware List", keep records on home renovation contractors.

Before you sign

Before you sign on the dotted line, ensure that the contract specifies any extras, the type and amount of work to be done, total cost, start date, the date of completion, and who is responsible for clean up. If it is a large amount of money, you may consider obtaining legal advice to review the contract terms. Certain renovations require a building permit. It is your responsibility for getting the building permit, so you should check with your city or town hall. If you want the contractor to get the permit, make sure this is specified in the contract.

Consumer rights and obligations

Once you have signed a contract, it is subject to a cooling off period. Under the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) you can cancel a home renovation project for any reason and have your money returned to you within 10 days of signing a contract, as long as the contract exceeds $50. The final price of the goods or services cannot be more than 10 per cent over the original written estimate. If new work comes up, you should be asked to approve a change order that includes the new work, and a revised estimate to cover new goods and services.

Door-to-Door Sales

You should be very cautious when dealing with any door-to-door contractor who is "just in the neighbourhood" with all of their equipment and supplies.

A consumer should:

  • Ask about the contractor's experience, business address, and telephone number;
  • Get estimates from three different contractors;
  • Avoid paying any large up-front fees or deposits that exceeds 10 percent of the total cost;
  • Never pay in cash, and always keep a record of payment; and
  • Conduct a background check and ask for references.

Cancelling a contract

If you do not receive a copy of the agreement, you may cancel the agreement within one year under the CPA. As well, if the contractor has made a false, misleading or deceptive statement about the goods or services you agreed to buy, you have the right to cancel the agreement as the result of an unfair business practice under the CPA. To cancel the agreement, you should send a cancellation letter to the contractor or business. A sample letter can be found online at: www.sse.gov.on.ca. Send the cancellation letter in a way that can be tracked, such as registered mail, email, or fax with confirmed delivery. You should also keep a signed and dated copy for yourself.

This column provides legal information only and is produced by the students of Community Legal Services and Pro Bono Students Canada (UWO). The information in this article is accurate as of the date of publication. If you need legal advice please contact a lawyer, community legal clinic or the Lawyer Referral Service at 1-900-565-4LRS.

Last edited: Thursday, September 5, 2013 @ 9:25 AM